Cannabis Health Science Studies Index

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ASTHMA & Cannabis studies completed 


Asthma is a chronic (long-term) lung disease that inflames and narrows the airways. Asthma causes recurring periods of wheezing.

Science and Research

1974 - Study - Smoked marijuana and oral delta-9-THC on specific airway conductance in asthmatic subjects.

1974 - Study - Marijuana and oral delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol on specific airway conductance.

1974 - Study ~ Acute effects of smoked marijuana and oral delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol on specific airway conductance in asthmatic subjects.

1975 - Study - Effects of smoked marijuana in experimentally induced asthma.

1976 - Study - Bronchodilator effect of delta1-tetrahydrocannabinol administered by aerosol.

1978 - Study - Bronchial effects of aerosolized delta 9-tetrahydrocannabinol.

1983 - Study - Comparison of bronchial effects of nabilone and terbutaline.

1984 - Study - Acute and subacute bronchial effects of oral cannabinoids.

1986 - Study ~ Role of prostaglandins in marihuana-induced bronchodilation.


1999 - Study ~ Cannabis and cannabinoids: pharmacology and rationale for clinical use.

2001 - Study ~ Therapeutic aspects of cannabis and cannabinoids.

2005 - Study ~ Endogenous cannabinoid receptor agonists inhibit neurogenic inflammations in guinea pig airways.

2005 - News - New Synthetic Delta-9-THC Inhaler Offers Safe, Rapid Delivery.

2006 - Study - The Cannabinergic System as a Target for Anti-inflammatory Therapies.

2007 - Study ~ Cannabinoid CB(2) receptor activation prevents bronchoconstriction and airway oedema in a model of gastro-oesophageal reflux.

2008 - Study ~ Activation of cannabinoid receptors prevents antigen-induced asthma-like reaction in guinea pigs.

2009 - Study ~ Cannabinoids as novel anti-inflammatory drugs.

2009 - News ~ Medical Marijuana and Asthma.

2010 - Study ~ Cannabinoid-induced apoptosis in immune cells as a pathway to immunosuppression.

2010 - Study ~ Beneficial effects of cannabinoids (CB) in a murine model of allergen-induced airway inflammation: Role of CB(1)/CB(2) receptors.

2010 - Study ~ The cannabinoid receptor agonist WIN 55,212-2 inhibits antigen-induced plasma extravasation in guinea pig airways.

2011 - Study ~ Allergen Challenge Increases Anandamide in Bronchoalveolar Fluid of Patients With Allergic Asthma.

2012 - Study ~ The Role of Cannabinoids In Inflammatory Modulation of Allergic Respiratory Disorders, Inflammatory Pain and Ischemic Stroke.

2012 - Study ~ Cannabinoid Receptor Activity In The Tumour Necrosis Factor (tnf)−α-Induced Increased Contractility Of The Guinea-Pig Isolated Trachea.

Acute and subacute bronchial effects of oral cannabinoids

TitleAcute and subacute bronchial effects of oral cannabinoids.
Author(s)Gong H Jr, Tashkin DP, Simmons MS, Calvarese B, Shapiro BJ
Journal, Volume, IssueClinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics 1984;35(1):26-32
Major outcome(s)acute bronchodilator activity of delta 9-THC; no effect of cannabidiol; daily use of delta 9-THC not associated with tolerance

The bronchodilating activity of oral cannabinoids was evaluated in three double-blind experiments that involved the study of dose- response and interactive relationships and the potential development of tolerance.

Data indicated that delta 8-tetrahydrocannabinol (delta 8-THC), cannabinol (CBN), and cannabidiol (CBD) in maximal doses of 75 mg, 1200 mg, and 1200 mg, respectively, did not induce significant dose-related physiologic effects in experienced marijuana smokers. delta 8-THC (75 mg) was, however, associated with bronchodilation, tachycardia, and peak highs less than that after delta 9- tetrahydrocannabinol (delta 9-THC).

The combinations of CBN and CBD with low-dose delta 9-THC (5 mg) did not induce significant bronchodilation but did exert interactive effects on heart rate and "high."

A 20-day study of daily delta 9-THC (20 mg), CBN (600 mg), and CBD (1200 mg) did not indicate tolerance or reverse tolerance to any drug. We conclude that delta 9-THC and, to a lesser extent, delta 8-THC, have acute bronchodilator activity but that CBN, CBD, and their combinations do not provide effective bronchodilation. The daily use of delta 9-THC was not associated with clinical tolerance.

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Dose(s)20 mg THC daily; 1200 mg cannabidiol daily
Duration (days)20 days
Participantsexperienced marihuana smokers
DesignOpen study
Type of publication 
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Comparison of bronchial effects of nabilone and terbutaline

TitleComparison of bronchial effects of nabilone and terbutaline in healthy and asthmatic subjects.
Author(s)Gong H Jr, Tashkin DP, Calvarese B
Journal, Volume, IssueJournal of Clinical Pharmacology 1983;23(4):127-133
Major outcome(s)moderate bronchodilator action in healthy subjects; no difference to placebo in asthmatics

The acute bronchomotor effect of nabilone, a synthetic cannabinoid compound, was compared to that of terbutaline sulfate and placebo in six healthy and six asthmatic subjects. Bronchodilation following nabilone was intermediate between that of terbutaline and placebo in the healthy subjects but was equivalent to placebo in the asthmatics.

We conclude that oral nabilone (2 mg) does not result in significant acute bronchodilation in patients with asthma.


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Dose(s)2 mg
Duration (days)1
Participants6 healthy subjects; 6 asthmatics
DesignControlled study
Type of publication 
Address of author(s) 
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Bronchial effects of aerosolized delta 9-tetrahydrocannabinol

TitleBronchial effects of aerosolized delta 9-tetrahydrocannabinol in healthy and asthmatic subjects.
Author(s)Tashkin DP, Reiss S, Shapiro BJ, Calvarese B, Olsen JL, Lodge JW.
Journal, Volume, IssueAm Rev Respir Dis. 1977 Jan;115(1):57-65.
Major outcome(s)THC effective in healthy subjects and 3 asthmatic subjects; aerosol caused bronchoconstriction in 2 asthmatic subjects

Effects on airway dynamics, heart rate, and the central nervous system of various doses of delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol administered in a random, double blind fashion using a Freon-propelled, metered-dose nebulizer were evaluated in 11 healthy men and 5 asthmatic subjects.

Effects of aerosolized delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol were compared with aerosolized placebo and isoproterenol and with 20 mg of oral and smoked delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol.

In the normal subjects, after 5 to 20 mg of aerosolized delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol, specific airway conductance increased immediately, reached a maximum (33 to 41 per cent increase) after 1 to 2 hours, and remained significantly greater than placebo values for 2 to 3 hours.

The bronchodilator effect of aerosolized delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol was less than that of isoproterenol after 5 min, but significantly greater than that of isoproterenol after 1 to 3 hours.

The magnitude of bronchodilatation after all doses of aerosolized delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol was comparable, but 5 mg of delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol caused a significantly smaller increase in heart rate and level of intoxication than the 20-mg dose.

Smoked delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol produced greater cardiac and intoxicating effects than either aerosolized or oral delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol. Side effects of aerosolized delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol included slight cough and/or chest discomfort in 3 of the 11 normal subjects.

Aerosolized delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol caused significant bronchodilatation in 3 of 5 asthmatic subjects, but caused moderate to severe bronchoconstriction associated with cough and chest discomfort in the other 2.

These findings indicate that aerosolized delat9-tetrahydrocannabinol, although capable of causing significant bronchodilatation with minimal systemic side effects, has a local irritating effect on the airways, which may make it unsuitable for therapeutic use.


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Dose(s)THC aerosol 5-20mg smoked THC 20mg oral THC 20 mg
Duration (days) 
Participants5 asthmatic subjects, 11 healthy subjects
DesignControlled study
Type of publicationMedical journal
Address of author(s) 
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Bronchodilator effect of delta1-tetrahydrocannabinol administered by aerosol

TitleBronchodilator effect of delta1-tetrahydrocannabinol administered by aerosol of asthmatic patients.
Author(s)Williams SJ, Hartley JP, Graham JD
Journal, Volume, IssueThorax 1976;31(6):720-723
Major outcome(s)significant broncholdilation with THC; faster action of salbutamol but both drugs equivalent at 1 hour

Ten volunteer inpatient asthmatics in a steady state were given a single inhalation of an aerosol (63 mul) delivered in random order, on each of three consecutive days, in the laboratory of a respiratory unit.

Before, and for one hour after treatment the pulse, blood pressure (lying and standing), forced expiratory volume in 1 second (FEV1), forced vital capacity (FVC), peak flow rate (PFR), and self- rating mood scales (SRMS) were recorded.

Treatments were placebo- ethanol only; delta1-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) 200 mug in ethanol; or salbutamol 100 mug (Ventolin inhaler), administered double blind. Salbutamol and THC significantly improved ventilatory function.

Maximal bronchodilatation was achieved more rapidly with salbutamol, but at 1 hour both drugs were equally effective. No cardiovascular or mood disturbance was detected, and plasma total cannabinoids at 15 minutes were undectable by radioimmunoassay.

The mode of action of THC differs from that of sympathomimetic drugs, and it or a derivative may make a suitable adjuvant in the treatment of selected asthmatics.

Ten volunteer inpatient asthmatics in a steady state were given a single inhalation of an aerosol (63 mul) delivered in random order, on each of three consecutive days, in the laboratory of a respiratory unit. Before, and for one hour after treatment the pulse, blood pressure (lying and standing), forced expiratory volume in 1 second (FEV1), forced vital capacity (FVC), peak flow rate (PFR), and self- rating mood scales (SRMS) were recorded.

Treatments were placebo- ethanol only; delta1-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) 200 mug in ethanol; or salbutamol 100 mug (Ventolin inhaler), administered double blind.

Salbutamol and THC significantly improved ventilatory function.

Maximal bronchodilatation was achieved more rapidly with salbutamol, but at 1 hour both drugs were equally effective. No cardiovascular or mood disturbance was detected, and plasma total cannabinoids at 15 minutes were undectable by radioimmunoassay.

The mode of action of THC differs from that of sympathomimetic drugs, and it or a derivative may make a suitable adjuvant in the treatment of selected asthmatics.


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Dose(s)200 micrograms in ethanol as aerosol
Duration (days)1
Participants10 astmatic subjects
DesignControlled study
Type of publication 
Address of author(s) 
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Effects of smoked marijuana in experimentally induced asthma

TitleEffects of smoked marijuana in experimentally induced asthma.
Author(s)Tashkin DP, Shapiro BJ, Lee YE, Harper CE
Journal, Volume, IssueAmerican Review of Respiratory Disease 1975;112(3):377-386
Major outcome(s)after experimental induction of acute bronchospasm prompt correction of the bronchospasm with cannabis

After experimental induction of acute bronchospasm in 8 subjects with clinically stable bronchial asthma, effects of 500 mg of smoked marijuana (2.0 per cent delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol) on specific airway conductance and thoracic gas volume were compared with those of 500 mg of smoked placebo marijuana (0.0 per cent delta9- tetrahydrocannabinol), 0.25 ml of aerosolized saline, and 0.25 ml of aerosolized isoproterenol (1,250 mug). Bronchospasm was induced on 4 separate occasions, by inhalation of methacholine and, on four other occasions, by exercise on a bicycle ergometer or treadmill.

Methacholine and exercise caused average decreases in specific airway conductance of 40 to 55 per cent and 30 to 39 per cent, respectively, and average increases in thoracic gas volume of 35 to 43 per cent and 25 to 35 per cent, respectively.

After methacholine-induced bronchospasm, placebo marijuana and saline inhalation produced minimal changes in specific airway conductance and thoracic gas volume, whereas 2.0 per cent marijuana and isoproterenol each caused a prompt correction of the bronchospasm and associated hyperinflation.

After exercise-induced bronchospasm, placebo marijuana and saline were followed by gradual recovery during 30 to 60 min, whereas 2.0 per cent marijuana and isoproterenol caused an immediate reversal of exercise-induced asthma and hyperinflation.

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Marijuana and oral delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol on specific airway conductance

TitleAcute effects of smoked marijuana and oral delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol on specific airway conductance in asthmatic subjects.
Author(s)Tashkin DP, Shapiro BJ, Frank IM.
Journal, Volume, IssueAmerican Review for Respiratory Diseases. 1974 Apr;109(4):420-8.
Major outcome(s)Smoked marijuana and oral THC caused significant bronchodilation of at least 2 hours duration.

The acute effects of smoked 2 per cent natural marijuana (7 mg per kg) and 15 mg of oral Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) on plethysmographically determined airway resistance (Raw) and specific airway conductance (SGaw) were compared with those of placebo in 10 subjects with stable bronchial asthma using a double-blind crossover technique.

After smoked marijuana, SGaw increased immediately and remained significantly elevated (33 to 48 per cent above initial control values) for at least 2 hours, whereas SGaw did not change after placebo.

The peak bronchodilator effect of 1,250 myg of isoproterenol was more pronounced than that of marijuana, but the effect of marijuana lasted longer. After ingestion of 15 mg of THC, SGaw was elevated significantly at 1 and 2 hours, and Raw was reduced significantly at 1 to 4 hours, whereas no changes were noted after placebo.

These findings indicated that in the asthmatic subjects, both smoked marijuana and oral THC caused significant bronchodilation of at least 2 hours duration.


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Duration (days) 
Participants10 subjects with stable bronchial asthma
DesignControlled study
Type of publicationMedical journal
Address of author(s) 
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New Synthetic Delta-9-THC Inhaler Offers Safe, Rapid Delivery

Article Date: 17 Apr 2005

 Solvay Pharmaceuticals, Inc announced the results of a Phase I study evaluating the safety and tolerability of pulmonary dronabinol administered in a one-time dose using a pressurized metered dose inhaler. Dronabinol is a synthetic version of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, which is one of more than 400 compounds found in the marijuana plant (Cannabis sativa L). The research was presented at the American Academy of Neurology (AAN) Annual Meeting in Miami, Fla.

The study found the new formulation of pulmonary dronabinol, delivered with a pressurized metered dose inhaler, provided rapid systemic absorption. All dose levels used in the research were considered safe in healthy young and elderly subjects.

Dronabinol currently is available as an oral capsule, marketed under the trade name MARINOL.

"Solvay Pharmaceuticals is leading the way in research of pharmaceutical quality cannabinoids as well as alternative drug delivery systems to help provide physicians and patients with new options for treating difficult symptoms," said Harold H. Shlevin, Ph.D., president and CEO of Solvay Pharmaceuticals, Inc. "Pulmonary dronabinol has potential application in a variety of conditions, such as the treatment of migraines, nausea, pain management and spasticity in patients with multiple sclerosis."

In mid-2005, Solvay Pharmaceuticals will launch a proof-of-principle clinical trial to evaluate the efficacy, safety and tolerability of pulmonary dronabinol delivered with a pressurized metered dose inhaler versus placebo for the acute treatment of a single moderate to severe migraine headache attack.

"Some oral medications are broken down by the liver before reaching the bloodstream, which limits the amount of the parent drug that is systemically available," said Jodi Miller, Pharm.D., M.S., Solvay Pharmaceuticals, Inc. "The dronabinol metered dose inhaler provides maximum plasma concentrations within minutes, delivers a controlled dose and could offer an alternative for patients when a fast onset of action is desirable."

About the Study

A randomized, placebo-controlled study of 27 subjects was conducted to evaluate the pharmacokinetics, pharmacodynamics, safety and tolerability of pulmonary dronabinol after single dose administration via a pressurized metered dose inhaler. The population was divided into healthy men 18 to 45 years of age and men and women 65 to 80 years of age.

Doses of dronabinol ranged from 0.3 mg to 9.6 mg in subjects 18 to 45 years. Subjects 65 to 80 years received either 3.6 mg or placebo. Plasma concentrations reached maximum levels (Tmax) within 2 to 7 minutes across all dose levels.

Cognitive functional impairment and Bond-Lader Visual Analogue Scales (VAS) evaluation findings were minimal at doses up to 3.6 mg in both young and elderly subjects. At dose levels of 7.2 mg and higher in the young subjects, cognitive test battery results indicated moderate cognitive functional impairment and VAS declined in self-rated alertness, contentment and calmness. A dose-dependent increase in heart rate was observed for 5 minutes after 0.3 mg and 1 to 4 hours after 9.6 mg. In elderly subjects, the magnitude and duration of the heart rate increase was less compared to young participants. The most common adverse events included cough, somnolence and dizziness.

 About Cannabinoids

Dronabinol, a cannabinoid, is part of a class of compounds called CB1/CB2 receptor agonists. Dronabinol and other cannabinoids bind to the CB1 and CB2 receptors in the endogenous cannabinoid system, a unique biological pathway involved in regulating nausea, vomiting, appetite, and other physiologic processes. Concentrations of these receptors exist in many brain regions, including the cerebral cortex, hypothalamus, cerebellum, brainstem and the vomiting center located in the medulla.1

MARINOL (dronabinol) CIII Capsules is the only U.S. FDA-approved synthetic cannabinoid and is used for the treatment of anorexia associated with weight loss in patients with AIDS and for the treatment of nausea and vomiting associated with cancer chemotherapy in patients who have failed to respond adequately to conventional antiemetic treatments. MARINOL is contraindicated in any patient who has a history of hypersensitivity to any cannabinoid or sesame oil. MARINOL should be used with caution in patients with cardiac disorders; in patients with a history of substance abuse (including alcohol abuse or dependence); in patients with mania, depression, or schizophrenia (along with careful psychiatric monitoring); in patients receiving concomitant therapy with sedatives, hypnotics, or other psychoactive drugs; and in pregnant patients, nursing mothers, or pediatric patients.

Solvay Pharmaceuticals, Inc. and Nektar Therapeutics entered into a collaboration in 2002 to develop the metered dose inhaler (MDI) for dronabinol (synthetic delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol) to be used for multiple indications. Nektar developed the formulation, and is responsible for the clinical and commercial manufacturing of the drug formulation and inhaler combination. Solvay Pharmaceuticals, Inc. is responsible for the clinical development and worldwide commercialization of the system.

Solvay Pharmaceuticals, Inc. ( of Marietta, Ga. (USA) is a research-driven pharmaceutical company that seeks to fulfill unmet medical needs in the therapeutic areas of cardiology, gastroenterology, mental health, women's health and a select group of specialized markets including men's health. It is a part of the global Solvay Pharmaceuticals organization whose core activities consist of discovering, developing and manufacturing medicines for human use. Solvay Pharmaceuticals, Inc. is a subsidiary corporation of the worldwide Solvay Group of chemical and pharmaceutical companies headquartered in Brussels, Belgium.

Nektar Therapeutics ( provides industry-leading drug delivery technologies, expertise, and manufacturing to enable the development of high-value, differentiated therapeutics. Nektar's advanced drug delivery capabilities are designed to enable the Company's biotechnology and pharmaceutical partners to solve drug development challenges and realize the full potential of their therapeutics, from developing new molecular entities to managing the life cycles of established products.

1. Martin BR, Wiley JL. Mechanism of action of cannabinoids: how it may lead to treatment of cachexia, emesis, and pain. J Support Oncol. 2004;2:305-316.




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Smoked marijuana and oral delta-9-THC on specific airway conductance in asthmatic subjects


figures and tables missing - email us if you can help!)

American Review of Respiratory Disease, Volume 109, 1974, p. 420-428

By Donald P. Tashkin, Bertrand J. Shapiro, and Ira M. Frank

SUMMARY: The acute effects of smoked 2 per cent natural marijuana (7 mg per kg) and 15 mg of oral delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) on plethysmographically determined airway resistance (Raw) and specific airway conductance (SGaw) were compared with those of placebo in 10 subjects with stable bronchial asthma using a double-blind crossover technique. After smoked marijuana, SGaw increased immediately and remained significantly elevated (33 to 48 per cent above initial control values) for at least 2 hours, whereas Sgaw did not change after placebo. The peak bronchodilator effect of 1,250 mcg of isoproterenol was more pronounced than that of marijuana, but the effect of marijuana lasted longer

After ingestion of 15 mg of THC, SGaw was elevated significantly at 1 and 2 hours, and Raw was reduced significantly at 1 to 4 hours, whereas no changes were noted after placebo. These findings indicated that in the asthmatic subjects, both smoked marijuana and oral THC caused significant bronchodilation of at least 2 hours' duration.


In the nineteenth century, one of the medicinal uses of marijuana was in the therapy of bronchial asthma (1); however, no definite evidence of its effectiveness as a bronchodilator was adduced until recent studies demonstrated significant airway dilatation in healthy young men after both the smoking of marijuana (2,3) and the ingestion of its principal psychoactive ingredient delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) (3). Whether similar effects could be elicited in subjects with bronchospastic disease was of interest because the irritant effect of marijuana smoke, which is probably responsible for the symptoms of bronchitis attributed to heavy or chronic marijuana smoking (4,5), might outweigh the bronchodilator properties of delta-9-THC, thereby resulting in bronchospasm in patients with hyper-reactive airways. Consequently, the acute effects of both inhaled marijuana smoke and oral delta-9-THC on specific airway conductance (SGaw) were investigated in a group of patients with clinically stable bronchial asthma.

Materials and Methods

Subjects: Five men and 5 women (from 22 to 74 years of age) with a diagnosis of bronchial asthma according to the criteria established by the American Thoracic Society (6) were studied. Each subject had a clinical picture characterized by typical episodes of wheezing, cough, and dyspnea occurring either spontaneously or in response to exposure to inhaled allergens or nonspecific irritants, to emotional aspects, to respiratory tract infections, and/or to exercise, and relieved by bronchodilator medication. At the time of study, all subjects were clinically stable; asthmatic symptoms were absent in 4 subjects and chronic and of mild to moderate severity in the remainder.

With the exception of 2 subjects (PF and JBon), who probably had pulmonary emphysema in addition to bronchospastic disease, there was no evidence of other significant medical illness by history, physical examination, complete blood count, blood chemistries (SMA-12), routine urinalysis, electrocardiogram, and chest radiograph. Significant psychiatric illness was excluded on the basis of interviews with one of the investigators and evaluation of performance on lthe Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory.

All subjects underwent screening pulmonary function studies, including spirometry using a 13.5-liter water spirometer (Warren E. Collins, Inc.), single-breath diffusing capacity for carbon monoxide (DLCO) (7), airway resistance (Raw), and thoracic gas volume (Vtg) using a 900-liter, variable-pressure body plethysmograph (8,9). To assess the degree of reversible airway obstruction, spirometry was performed both before and 10 minutes after inhalation of 0.25 ml of isoproterenol HCL (1:200) via a DeVilbiss nebulizer connected to a positive pressure breathing device powered by compressed air.

The following technique was used to administer the isoproterenol aerosol. Subjects were instructed first to exhale to residual volume, then to inhale slowly from the nebulizer to total lung capacity during a period of approximately 10 seconds, and then to resume normal breathing for several seconds. These maneuvers were repeated until the bronchodilator solution in the nebulizer was consumed (usually after 4 to 5 deep breaths). In addition, Raw and Vtg were measured both 15 minutes before and immediately before inhalation of isoproterenol, and at 5, 15, 30, and 60 minutes after the bronchodilator. In all subjects, flows and/or SGaw (the ratio of the reciprocal of Raw to the simultaneously measured Vtg) increased more than 25% after isoproterenol inhalation, indicating the responsiveness of the airways to bronchodilator medication.

Seven of the 10 subjects had smoked marijuana previously, but only sporadically (less than 1 cigarette per month). None admitted to the use of drugs other than those prescribed for bronchial asthma, and none was a tobacco cigarette smoker. No subject had used marijuana within 7 days before the present study. In addition, bronchodilator medication was withheld for at least 8 hours before the study.

Experiments were carried out with each subject on 4 separate days beginning at 10 A.M., with at least 48 hours intervening between each study session. The subjects were informed that they would be randomly receiving marijuana or placebo.


Smoked marijuana: During 2 of the 4 experimental sessions, subjects smoked 7 mg per kg of body weight of natural marijuana preparation containing either 0.0 % delta-9-THC, serving as a placebo control, or 2.0 % delta-9-THC according to a random, double-blind crossover design; however, because of the potent psychotropic effects of marijuana, it was recognized that the subjects probably had little difficulty in identifying the marijuana. The THC content of the experimental preparation had previously been assayed by gas-liquid chromatography. The 0 % preparation was obtained by extraction of the active cannabinoids from the natural material until assays for cannabinol, cannabidiol, delta-8-THC, and delta-9-THC were all 0.0 %.

A uniform smoking technique was used in an effort to standardize the amount of volatilized delta-9-THC delivered in the inhaled material. Subjects inhaled the cigarette deeply for 2 to 4 seconds, held their breath for 15 seconds, resumed normal breathing for approximately 5 seconds, and then repeated these maneuvers until the cigarette was consumed, during a period of approximately 10 minutes. The cigarette butt, or "roach," was held with forceps to permit nearly complete consumption of the "roach," where the volatilized cannabinoids are concentrated.

The following characteristics were measured 15 minutes before and immediately before marijuana or placebo was smoked (initial control period) and immediately, 5, 10, 15, 30, 60, 90, 120, and 180 minutes after completion of smoking: Raw, Vtg, respiratory rate, heart rate (determined from the electro-cardiogram), and systolic and diastolic blood pressures. In addition, to provide a rough assessment of the degree of intoxication; at each interval after the smoking of marijuana and placebo, the 7 subjects who had had prior experience with Cannabis were asked to estimate how "high" they felt on a scale of zero to 7 in which 7 represented the "highest" they had ever felt after smoking marijuana.

Oral delta-9-THC: During the remaining 2 study days, after an overnight fast, according to a random double-blind design subjects ingested either placebo or 15 mg of synthetic delta-9-THC dissolved in sesame oil and contained in identical-gelatin capsules. Again, as in the smoked marijuana experiments, the subjects were probably able to identify the delta-9-THC because of the marked psychotropic effect. Measurements of the same characteristics as those determined in the smoking studies and scoring of subjective degrees of intoxication were carried out 30 minutes before and immediately before oral administration of the drug (initial control Period) and 30, 60, 90. 120. 180, 240, 300, and 360 minutes after ingestion. The order of the smoking and oral experiments was randomized among the study subjects.

All natural marijuana and synthetic THC preparations were obtained from the National Institutes of Mental Health, under whose direction all extraction, blending, assay, and synthetic procedures had previously been performed.


From each set of measurements of Raw and Vtg, SGaw was calculated to correct for changes in Raw secondary to changes in lung volume. For each subject at each time interval after inhalation of isoproterenol or the smoking or ingestion of the test agent, per cent change in each of the measured characteristics was calculated from the average of the 2 control values. Individual per cent changes were averaged for each inhaled or ingested agent separately for all subjects at each time interval for each type of experimental preparation.

Using the Student t test, significance of the differences between means was determined for the average per cent change in each characteristic for each experimental preparation compared with initial control values, the per cent changes that followed smoked marijuana and oral THC compared with placebo using paired observations, the differences between the mean scores from zero for the levels of "high" after smoked marijuana and oral delta-9-THC.

Physical characteristics and the results of the baseline pulmonary function studies for each subject are indicated in table 1. Although baseline forced expiratory volume in 1 second (FEV1) was greater than 80 % of the predicted value in 3 asymptomatic subjects (MA, SC, GT), in 2 of the latter SGaw was more than 2 standard deviations below the mean predicted value for this laboratory, and in the third subject, SGaw increased 87 % after isoproterenol inhalation, indicting the presence of reversible bronchospasm. There, symptoms and/or functional abnormalities were present in all subjects.

Average initial control values for the measured characteristics during each experimental session are indicated in table 2. There were no significant differences between the mean baseline values obtained on separate days.

Smoking studies: The average per cent changes in SGaw and Vtg after smoked marijuana, smoked placebo marijuana, and inhaled isoproterenol are shown in figures 1 and 2. After placebo, neither SGaw nor Vtg changed significantly. After 2 per cent marijuana, average SGaw increased immediately and remained elevated (33 to 48 per cent more than initial control values) for at least 2 hours. These increases were significant (P<0.05) compared both with control values and with placebo values.

The Vtg decreased slightly (4 to 13 per cent) but significantly (P<0.05) compared with baseline and/or marijuana. Changes in Raw after marijuana generally paralleled the changes in SGaw but were of lesser magnitude because of the associated decreases in Vtg.

For comparison with the changes that followed marijuana smoking, average per cent changes in SGaw and Vtg after inhalation of 1,250 mcg of isoproterenol are also shown in figures 1 and 2. During the first 15 minutes after inhalation of isoproterenol, SGaw increased to levels greater than those observed after 2 per cent marijuana. By 60 minutes after isoproterenol, SGaw was elevated only slightly, and was significantly less than the SGaw after marijuana (P<0.05). During the first 30 minutes after isoproterenol inhalation, Vtg was significantly reduced, to a degee similar to that noted after marijuana. By 60 minutes after isoproterenol, Vtg had essentially returned to normal.

The average percentage changes in heart rate after smoking of marijuana or placebo and after inhalation of isoproterenol are shown in figure 3. Pulse rate decreased gradually after placebo to levels that were slightly but significantly below baseline values after 30 to 120 minutes. After 2 per cent marijuana, pulse rate increased immediately and remained elevated for 30 minutes by amounts (7 to 22 Per cent) that were significantly different from the changes that followed placebo (P<0.05). Therafter, pulse rate decreased to levels that, at 90 and 120 minutes, were significantly below initial control values (P<0.05) but were not significantly different from the changes that followed placebo. Pulse rate increased after isoproterenol, but the increase was not significant at P<0.05.

No significant change in systolic or diastolic blood pressure or in respiratory rate was observed after placebo, marijuana, or isoproterenol. All subjects admitted to a definite feeling of intoxication after smoking marijuana, whereas all but one subject had either no change or minimal change in state of consciousness after placebo.

The latter subject (PF), who had not had any previous exposure to Cannabis, felt sleepy, lightheaded, and jittery after both marijuana and placebo. The scores for subjective degree of "high" after marijuana revealed a maximal feeling of intoxication during the 5-minute period immediately after completion of smoking, with a gradual decline thereafter (figure 4). By 2 hours, the magnitude of the "high" was approximately one-third of the peak level, and by 3 hours, the "high" had essentially dissipated.

Oral studies: The results of the oral studies are shown in figures 5 and 6. The SGaw increased modestly (14 to 19 per cent) but significantly (P<0.05) at 60 to 120 minutes after ingestion of 15 mg of delta-9-THC, whereas the placebo was not associated with any significant changes. The Vtg did not change significantly after either placebo or THC.

As noted with smoked marijuana, decreases in Raw after oral THC paralleled the increases in SGaw, except that Raw was still significantly reduced (-10.2 + 3.6 and -12.9 + 3.3, with P<0.05) at 3 and 4 hours, respectively. No alteration in respiratory rate, pulse rate, or systolic or diastolic pressure was observed after oral delta-9-THC or placebo. A subjective "high" was first experienced 1 hour after ingestion of THC, reached a peak at 2 to 3 hours, then declined gradually, and was gone by 6 hours (figure 4). The placebo preparation was not associated with any significant change in consciousness.


The significant increases in SGaw after the smoking of marijuana compared with placebo suggested that inhaled marijuana caused airway dilatation in asthmatic subjects and was consistent with findings previously reported in persons without airway disease.

The dilatation was not due to an increase in lung volume, because Vtg decreased significantly in paralled with the increase in SGaw. The observed decrese in Vtg was consistent with a reduction in air trapping secondary to the decrease in bronchomotor tone. Also, the volume history of the lung, i.e., the deep, sustained inhalation breathing pattern, did not explain the increase in SGaw that followed marijuana smoking compared to placebo smoking, because the breathing patterns were similar.

Because there was a significant correlation between the individual increases in SGaw after marijuana and the magnitude of the subjective "high" (r= 0.52; P< 0.01), the possibility that the observed bronchodilatation was causally related either to the psychologic effects of marijuana or to other effects of Cannabis on the central nervous system deserves consideration.

Despite the significant correlation between the degree of marijuana-induced bronchodilatation and the level of intoxication, the time sequences for these changes were somewhat different, in that the bronchodilator effect at 2 hours was similar in magnitude to that noted immediately after smoking (figure 1), whereas by 2 hours the "high" had decreased to less than one half of the level experienced immediately after smoking (figure 4); however, these temporal differences did not exclude the possibility that the emotional changes experienced soon after smoking triggered a chain of reactions that eventuated in a relaxation of bronchomotor tone of longer duration than the initiating emotional stimulus.

A cause-and-effect relationship between the psychologic and bronchial effects of marijuana is consistent with the common clinical observation that asthmatic attacks can be triggered by emotional factors and by the demonstrated effectiveness of suggestion and behavior therapy in the relief or prevention of bronchospasm.

On the other hand, the fact that significant bronchodilatation after 2 per cent marijuana has also been noted in nonasthmatic persons suggests that the dilator effect observed in our asthmatic subjects was probably at least not predominantly of psychogenic origin, because there is no evidence that bronchomotor tone in normal man is influenced significantly by emotional factors. Moreover, although 3 of our subjects who had had no previous exposure to Cannabis experienced a less euphoric "high" than the others there was no difference in the degree of bronchodilatation observed between these persons and those who had smoked marijuana previously, suggesting that the pleasure associated with the "high" was probably not related to the relaxant effect on the airways.

Although the mechanism whereby marijuana decreases bronchomotor tone has not been studied in asthmatic patients, previous work in this laboratory in normal subjects suggested that the bronchodilator effect is mediated neither by stimulation of B-adrenergic receptors nor by an atropine-like effect.

These results make it appear unlikely that in normal persons the bronchodilator effect of marijuana is mediated by its effects on lthe central nervous system, and favor, instead, a direct effect of the drug on bronchial smooth muscle. This may also be true in asthmatic patients.

The fact that the smoking of placebo marijuana did not cause a significant decrease in SGaw ;was surprising because the inhalation of particulate matter in the smoke was expected to cause reflex bronchoconstriction by analogy with tobacco cigarette smoking, particularly in asthmatic subjects, whose airways are more reactive to nonspecific irritants than those of subjects without airway disease.

In the present study, the failure of the airways to constrict after smoked placebo might have been due to a balancing out of the constrictor effect of inhaled irritants either by unidentified bronchodilator compounds in marijuana that are not alcohol-extractable, or by a nonspecific placebo bronchodilator response to the expectation of a pleasant experience.

In a prior study, it was shown that the airways of normal subjects also did not constrict after the smoking of the placebo preparation but did constrict after cigarette smoking. The fact that pulse rate decreased after placebo, in contrast to the significant and expected increase after 2 per cent marijuana (figure 3), suggests a placebo phenomenon rather than a pharmacologic response to a bronchodilator substance in the THC-extracted marijuana preparation.

Although the maximal mean change in SGaw after smoking of 2 per cent marijuana (48 per cent) was less than that after inhalation of 1,250 mcg of isoproterenol HCL (69 per cent), the bronchodilator effect of marijuana was more sustained than that of isoproterenol, consistent with the metabolism of delta-9-THC to physiologically active compounds (19), in contrast to the rapid conversion of isoproterenol to inactive metabolites.

The pharmacologic bronchodilator principal in marijuana might have been expected to produce a fractionally greater bronchodilator effect in subjects with bronchospastic disease compared with healthy subjects by analogy with the greater bronchodilator response to inhaled isoproterenol in asthmatic compared with normal subjects. Our observation that marijuana smoking resulted in a similar, rather than greater, magnitude of bronchdilatation in asthmatic subjects compared with that previously noted in normal persons might possibly have been due to the following reasons.

Although an attempt was made to standardize the technique of marijuana smoking, it is possible that the asthmatic subjects delivered less THC to their airways because of relative inexperience with the smoking technique compared with healthy chronic smokers; the bronchial irritant effect of marijuana smoke might have tended to produce more bronchoconstriction in subjects with hyper-reactive airways compared with normal persons, thereby offsetting a potentially greater fractional bronchodilator response to the pharmacologic agent (THC) in marijuana smoke in subjects with bronchospastic disease; because repeated exposure to marijuana is believed to lead to induction of enzymes needed to convert delta-9-THC to the active 11-hydroxy metabolite, less extensive metabolism of delta-9-THC to the active form in our asthmatic subjects with relatively little previous marijuana experience might have accounted for a lesser magnitude of physiologic effect than would have resulted had they been chronic users.

The maximal average per cent increase in heart rate after marijuana smoking in the present study was only 22 per cent as opposed to the 55 per cent increase previously reported in healthy, experienced subjects smoking the same quantity of THC (3). Possible explanations for this discrepancy in the magnitude of marijuana-induced tachycardia in asthmatic subjects compared with normal subjects include the following reasons: the fact that our asthmatic subjects were relatively inexperienced marijuana smokers might have resulted in reduced delivery of marijuana smoke to the airways and, consequently, reduced systemic absorption of THC; more uneven distribution of marijuana smoke and increased mucus and inflammatory changes in the tracheobronchial tree of asthmatic patients might have resulted in decreased or delayed absorption of THC from the airways; there might have been less conversion of delta-9-THC to the active 11-hydroxy metabolite in our relatively naive asthmatic smokers; there might be basic differences in myocardial tissue responsiveness to THC in asthmatic subjects compared with healthy persons.

The small but significant increases in SGaw and decreases in Raw after oral delta-9-THC indicated that this component of natural marijuana has a systemically active bronchodilator effect in asthmatic patients beginning 1 hour and lasting as long as 4 hours after ingestion of the drug; however, this bronchodilator effect was fractionally smaller in magnitude than that previously noted in normal subjects after the same dose of THC. Moreover, heart rate did not increase significantly (maximal mean increase, 9 + 5 per cent) after oral administration of 15 mg of delta-9-THC in our asthmatic subjects in contrast with the significant increases (19 + 7 per cent) previously noted in normal subjects.

These discrepancies in the responses to oral THC of normal experienced Cannabis users and relatively inexperienced asthmatic persons might have been due to differences in absorption of the drug from the gastrointestinal tract, metabolism of THC to the active agent, or tissue responsiveness. With regard to the first 2 possibilities, comparison of plasma concentrations of delta-9-THC and its metabolites after oral administration of the drug in both experienced and naive persons with and without asthma would be of interest.

We can conclude that in clinically stable asthmatic subjects with minimal to moderate bronchospasm, both smoked marijuana and oral delta-9-THC resulted in bronchodilatation lasting as long as 2 hours and 4 hours, respectively. Further studies to evaluate the effects of smoked marijuana and oral delta-9-THC on bronchomotor tone during spontaneous or experimentally induced asthmatic attacks would be of interest.

Because only the acute effects of marijuana smoking on airway dynamics in subjects with bronchospastic disease were studied, the results did not preclude the possibility of an aggravation of existing bronchial pathology secondary to chronic marijuana smoking in these same persons. Furthermore, the profound psychotropic effect of marijuana and delta-9-THC, in addition to such side effects as tachycardia and the atropine-like drying effect, might severely limit any clinical therapeutic usefulness.


The writers are indebted to Dr. Stephen Szara, National Institutes of Mental Health, for advice in the experimental design of the study; to Dr. Daniel H. Simmons, for help in review of the manuscript; to Mr. Richard N. Bleich, Senior Pharmacist, for assistance in the double-blind aspects of the study, and to Mr. Enoch Lee and Mr. Charles Harper, for their invaluable technical assistance.


1. Grinspoon, L: Marijuana, Sci. Amer., 1969, 221, 17.

2. Vachon, L., Fitzgerald, M.X., Solliday, N.H., Gould, I.A., and Gaensler, E.A.: Single-dose effect of marijuana smoke. Bronchial dynamics and respiratory-center sensitivity in normal subjects, New Eng. J. Med., 1973, 288, 985.

3. Tashkin, D.P., Shapiro, B.J., and Frank, I.M.: Acute pulmonary physiological effects of smoked marijuana and oral delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol in healthy young men, New Eng. J. Med., 1973, 289, 336.

4. Waldman, M.M.: Marijuana bronchitis, J.A.M.A., 1970, 211, 501.

5. Chopra, I.C., and Chopra, R.N.: The use of the Cannabis drugs in India, Bull. Narcotics, 1957, 9, 4.

6. American Thoracic Society: Chronic bronchitis, asthma and pulmonary emphysema, A statement on Diagnostic Standards of Nontuberculous Respiratory Diseases, Amer. Rev. Resp. Dis., 1962, 85,762.

7. Ogilvie, C.M., Forster, R.E., Blakemore, W.S., and Morton, J.W.: A standardized breath holding technique for the clinical measurement of the diffusing capacity of the lung for carbon monoxide, J. Clin. Invest., 1957, 36,1.

8. Dubois, A.B., Botelho, S.Y., and Comroe, J.H., Jr.: A new method for measuring airway resistance in many using a body plethysmograph: Values in normal subjects and patients with respiratory disease, J. Clin. Invest., 1956, 35, 327.

9. Dubois, A.B., Botelho, S.Y., Bedell, G.N., Marshall, R., and Comroe, J.H., Jr.: A rapid plethysmographic method for measuring thoracic gas volume, J. Clin. Invest., 1956, 35, 322.

10. Briscoe, W.A., and Dubois, A.B.: Relation between airway resistance, airway conductance and lung volume in subjects of different age and body size, J. Clin. Invest, 1958, 37, 1279.

11. Kory, R.C., Callahan, R., Boren, H.G., and Syner, J.C.: The Veterans Administration-Army cooperative study of pulmonary function. I. Clinical spirometry in normal men, Amer. J. Med., 1961, 30, 243.

12. Cotes, J.E.: Lung Function, F.A. Davis Company, Philadelphia, 1965.

13. Luparello, T., Lyons, H.A., Bleecker, E.R., and McFadden, E.R., Jr.: Influences of suggestionon airway reactivity in asthmatic subjects, Psychosom. Med., 1968, 30, 819.

14. Moore, N.: Behavior therapy in bronchial asthma; a controlled study, J. Psychosom. Res., 1965, 9, 257.

15. Shapiro, B.J., Tashkin, D.p., and Frank, I: Mechanism of increased specific airway conductance with marijuana smoking in healthy young men, Ann. Intern. Med., 1973, 78, 832.

16. Nadel, J.A., Comroe, J.H., Jr.: Acute effects of inhalation of cigarette smoke on airway conductance, J. Appl. Physiol., 1961, 16, 16 713.

17. Devries, K., Booij-Noord, H., Goei, J.T., and orie, N.G.M.: Hyperreactivity of the bronchial tree to drugs, chemical and physical agents, in Bronchitis, N.G.M. Orie and H.G. Sluiter, ed., Royal VanGorcum, Assen, Netherlands, 1964, p. 167.

18. Galanter, M., Wyatt, R.J., Lemberger, L., Weingartner, H., Vaughan, T.B., and Roth, W.T.: Effects on humans of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol administered by smoking, Science, 1972, 176, 934.

19. Lemberger, L., Axelrod, J., and Kopin, I.J.: Metabolism and dispostition of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol in man, Pharmacol. Rev., 1971, 23, 371.

20. Lyons, H.A., Ayres, S.M., Dworetzky, M., Falliers, C.J., Harris, M.C., Dollery, C.T., and Gandevia, B.: Symposium on isoproterenol therapy in asthma, Ann. Allerg., 1973, 311, 1.



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INFLAMMATION, Vol 12, No. 4, 1988 

E.A. Formukong, A.T. Evans, and F.J. Evans

Department of Pharmacognosy, The School of Pharmacy University of London,

29-39 Brunswick Square London, WC11N 1AX, England 

Abstract---Two extracts of Cannabis sativa herb, one being cannabinoid--free (ethanol) and the other containing the cannabinoids (petroleum), were shown to inhibit PBQ- induced writhing in mouse when given orally and also to antagonize tetradecanoylphorbol acetate (TPA) -induced erythema of mouse skin when applied topically. With the exception of cannabinol (CBN) and delta-1-tetrahydrocannabinol (delta-1-THC), the cannabinoids and olivetol (their biosynthetic precursor) demonstrated activity in the PBQ test exhibiting their maximal effect at doses of about 100 mcg/kg.

Delta-1-THC only became maximally effective in doses of 10 mg/kg. This higher dose corresponded to that which induced catalepsy and is indicative of a central action. CBN produce a 40% inhibition of PBQ-induced writhing. Cannabidiol (CBD) was the most effective of the cannabinoids at doses of 100 mcg/kg. Doses of cannabinoids that were effective in the analgesic test orally were used topically to antagonize TPA-induced erythema of skin. The fact that delta-1-THC and CBN were the least effective in this test suggests a structural relationship between analgesic activity and antiinflammatory activity among the cannabinoids related to their peripheral actions and separate from the central effects of delta-1-THC.


Various preparations of Cannabis sativa have been employed for their medicinal effects, including antipyretic, antirheumatic, antiallergic, and analgesic purposes (1). Extracts of Cannabis have been shown to possess analgesic activity (2, 3), and delta-1-tetrahydrocannabinol (delta-1-THC), the psychoactive component of Cannabis has also been shown to possess this activity in various models (4-6). In addition, cannabinol (CBN) but not cannabidiol (CBD) was shown to exhibit analgesic activity in vivo.

It is possible that the antiinflammatory and antiasthmatic properties of this herb are mediated through effects on arachidonate metabolism. However, constituents of Cannabis are known to stimulate and inhibit prostaglandin (PG) release by influencing enzymes of this pathway.

A cannabinoid or an extract of Cannabis with little or no central effects could be of use therapeutically. In this paper, we have examined the antiinflammatory potential of two extracts of Cannabis, pure cannabinoids and olivetol (a cannabinoid biosynthetic precursor) in two models of inflammation, in an attempt to separate on a structural basis the peripheral from the central action of these phenolic drugs.


The folowing were used: aspirin (Sigma Chemical Co., Poole, Dorset.), tripotassium citrate (analytical grade), all cannabinoids except CBG (Sigma), and CBG (Makor Chemicals, Jerusalem, Israel).

Preparation of Drugs: PBQ Test. Cannabinoids and cannabis extracts were suspended in a 1% ethanolic solution containing 2.5% w/v Tween. Aspirin was dissolved in a 40 mg/ml solution of tripotassium citrate.

Phenyl Benzoquinone Writhing (PBQ) and Preparation of PBQ Solution. A 0.04% solution of PBQ was prepared immediately before use by dissolving PBQ in warm ethanol and diluting with water at 40 degrees C  bringing the ethanolic concentration to 5%. The bottle was stoppered, foil paper wrapped around it, and the solution maintained at 34 degrees C. Deterioration of the solution occurs if left exposed to light and air.

Administration of Drugs. Male CDI male (Charles River) weighing 18-20 g were starved overnight for the experiment. Animals were placed in a thermostatically controlled environment maintained at 34 degrees C. Mice were orally administered test drug 20 min before the intraperitoneal injection of PBQ (4 mg/kg). Five minutes after injection, a hand tally counter was used to record the number of stretching movements for each mouse in a 5-min period. Control animals were only administered the vehicle. Note less than five animals were used per dose.

Statistical Analysis. Results are expressed as mean percentage inhibition of control (+SEM) in the case of PBQ test. IC-50s were obtained from graphs relating probit percentage inhibition (ordinate) against log dose (abscissa). The IC-50 is that dose of drug which would inhibit PBQ-induced writhing by 50%.

Tetradecanoyl phorbol-acetate-induced (TPA) Erythema of Mouse Ear. In order to exclude the possibility of a central mechanism of action (see Discussion), compounds also were tested for their ability to inhibit TPA-induced erythema on mouse ears in 100% of the animals was chosen as the challenging dose for inhibition studies, measured 4 h after application.

Test drugs were dissolved in ethanol and 5 ul applied to the inner ear of the mouse 15 min before the application of 1 mcg TPA in 5 ul acetone. Only one dose of test dug was used for this experiment, 100 mcg/mcl ethanols, except trifluoperazine at 1 mg/5 ul. The other ear acted as a control.

The results were expressed as percentage inhibition, taken to mean the complete suppression of erythema in the test animals, as described in reference 19. 


PBQ-Induced Writhing. CBD, CBG, olivetol, ethanolic extract, and petroleum spirit extract produced significant inhibition at doses up to 10 mg/kg (Figures 1-3). CBN was only marginally active (Table 1.)

Delta-1-THC was fully effective only at concentrations above 10 mg/kg Figure 2).

The ethanolic and petroleum extract, CBD, olivetol, CBG, and cannflavon were more potent than aspirin. The petroleum spirit extract was about four times more potent than the ethanolic extract, which was virtually equipotent with CBD. Cannflavon, isolated from the ethanolic extract was 14 times less potent than the ethanolic extract of the dried herb (Table 2).

 There was a decline in response following the administration of doses greater than 0.1 mg/kg of some substances. This is most evident in the bell shaped dose-response curve of the petroleum spirit extract (Figure 1). The activity of the ethanolic extract and CBD was also found to decrease slightly at higher dose levels. (Figures 1 and 2)

TPA-Induced Erythema. In general, the ability of compounds to inhibit TPA-induced erythema correlated well with their potency in the PBQ-writhing test. Thus, CBN and delta-1-THC were the least active followed by CBG, CBD, and cannflavon. Again, the extracts were the most active (Table 3). Twenty-four hours after application, the ethanolic extract still produced 16% inhibition of TPA-induced erythema of the animals. All other substances were without activity after 24 h.

All substances were more active than trifluoperazine, 1 mg/5ul, a known phorbol ester antagonist both in vivo and in vitro.  


The PBQ-induced writhing response is believed to be produced by the liberation of endogenous substance(s), notably metabolites of the arachidonic cascade. However, the PBQ test is not specific for weak analgesics such as the nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drugs, as it also detects centrally active analgesics. Therefore, in the elucidation of the action of the cannabinoids as inflammatory drugs, it was necessary to perform more than one test. In this case, peripheral rather than central action was confirmed in the mouse ear erythema assay.

TPA-induced erythema was inhibited by the extracts cannflavon, cannabinoids, and olivetol. The activity of TPA has been shown to be dependent upon PG release in mouse epidermis and mouse peritoneal macrophages (24) possibly via the initial stimulation of protein kinase C (for a review see reference 25). It has also been shown that compounds that show moderate to very potent antiinflammatory potential in standard in vivo inflammation models will also inhibit TPA-induced edema of the mouse ear, and phorbol-ester-induced erythema.

It is possible that the cannabinoids and their extracts are inhibiting both PBQ-induced writhing and TPA-induced erythema by effects on arachidonate release and metabolism. Cannabinoids and olivetol have been shown to inhibit PG mobilization and synthesis (14). The noncannabinoid constituents of Cannabis, for example, cannflavon, have been shown to be mainly cyclooxygenase inhibitors. Cannabinoids, however, stimulate and inhibit phospholipase A2 (PLA2) activity, as well as inducing an inhibition of cyclooxygenase and lipoxygenase. The activity of Cannabis herb or resin is complex, in that activities can be demonstrated on at least three major enzymes of the arachidonate cascade.

The mechanism by which delta-1-THC inhibits PBQ-induced writhing may differ from that of the other substances. At concentrations greater than 10 mg/kg, delta-1-THC may be inhibiting PBQ-induced writhing by acting on central rather than peripheral functions. It is possible that prostaglandins modulate certain inhibitory pathways in the brain, bringing about an increase in the pain threshold. This dose of delta-1-THC is capable of bringing about the cataleptic effect (27), which is a standard test for central involvement. Central analgesics have higher efficacies than peripheral ones, and this may explain the effectiveness of delta-1-THC (Figure 2). The central involvement of delta-1-THC is perhaps the primary reason why delta-1-THC was recognized as an analgesic before other cannabinoids.

Our results suggest that the response of the ethanolic extract cannot be solely due to cannflavon. Other structurally related phenolic substances, known to be present in this complex extract, may account for the higher activity seen either due to cumulative or synergistic effects upon cyclooxygenase. The activity of the petroleum ether extract is likely to be largely due to the presence of CBD and CBN. GLC analysis of the extract has shown that this extract contained 14.13% CBD, 9.08% CBN, and 6.68% delta-1-THC (27). On the basis of our results, it is possible to separate the centrally active cannabinoid delta-1-THC from peripherally active compounds of the herbal extracts.

An attempt has been made to differentiate them structurally (Table 3). It can be seen that the olivetolic nucleus together with a free C-5 hydroxyl group are structural requirements for peripheral effects, involving both cyclooxygenase and lipoxygenase inhibition. Substances possessing this structure possess antiinflammatory and analgesic activities without central hallucinogenic effects. Delta-1-THC and CBN, which are cyclized derivatives exhibiting no C-5 hydroxyl moiety, have little if any peripheral action.

The traditional use of Cannabis as an analgesic, antiasthmatic, and antirheumatic drug is well established. Our results would suggest that cultivation of Cannabis plants rich in CBD and other phenolic substances would be useful not only as fiber-producing plants but also for medicinal purposes in the treatment of certain inflammatory disorders. 

Acknowledgments----We are grateful to the Medicinal Research Council and the Government of Cameroon for financial support.  


1. Pars, H.G., R.J. Razdan, and J.F. Howes. 1977. Potential therapeutic agents derived from the cannabinoid nucleus. Adv. Drug. Res. 11.  

2. O.L. Davies, J. Raventos, and A.L. Walpole, 1946. A method for evaluation of analgesic activity using rats. Br. J. Pharmacol. 1: 255-264. 

3. Gill, E.W., W.D.M. Paton, and R.G. Pertwee, 1970. Preliminary experiments on the chemistry and pharmacology of Cannabis. Nature 228: 134-136. 

4. Dewey, W.L., L.S. Harris, and J.S. Kennedy, 1972. Some pharmacological and toxicological effects of 1-trans-delta-8- and 1-trans-delta-9-THC in laboratory rodents. Arch. Int. Pharmacodyn. 196: 133-145.  

5. Chesher, G.B., C.J. Dahl, M. Everingham, D.M. Jackson, H. Marchant-Williams, and G.A. Starmer, 1973. The effect of cannabinoids on intestinal mobility and their antinociceptive effect in mice. Br. J. Pharmacol. 49: 588-594. 

6. Buxbaum, D., E. Sanders-Bush, and D.H. Efron. 1969. Analgesic activity of tetrahydrocannabinol in the rat and mouse. Fed. Proc. 28: 735.  

7. Sanders, J., D.M. Jackson, and G.A. Starmer. 1979. Interactions among the cannabinoids in the antagonism of abdominal constriction response in the mouse. Psychopharmacology 61: 281-285.  

8. White, H.L., and R.L. Tansik. 1980. Effects of delta-9-THC and cannabidiol on phospholipase and other enzymes regulating arachidonate metabolism. Prostaglandins Med. 4: 409-411,  

9. Burstein, S., and S.A. Hunter. 1978. Prostaglandins and Cannabis VI. Release of arachidonic acid from HeLa cells by delta-1-THC and other cannabinoids. Biochem. Pharmacol. 27: 1275-1280.  

10. Burstein, S. and A. Raz. 1972. Inhibition of prostaglandin E2 biosynthesis by delta-1-tetrahydrocannabinol. Prostaglandins 2: 369.  

11. Burstein, S.E., Levine, and C. Varanelli. 1973. Prostaglandins and Cannabis II. Inhibition of biosynthesis by the naturally occurring cannabinoids. Biochem. Pharmacol. 22: 2905-2910.

 12. Barrett, M.L., D.Gordon, and F.J. Evans. 1985. Isolation from Cannabis sativa L of cannflavin: A novel inhibitor of prostaglandin production. Biochem. Pharmacol. 34: 2019-2024.  

13. Evans, A.T., E.A. Formukong, and F.J. Evans. 1987. Activation of phospholipase A2 by cannabinoids. Lack of correlation with CNS effects. FEBS Lett. 211: 119-122.

 14. Evans, A.T., E.A. Formukong, and F.J. Evans. 1987. Actions of Cannabis constituents on enzymes of prostaglandin synthesis: Antiinflammatory potential. Biochm. Pharmacol. 36: 2035-2037.  

15. Parkes, M.W., and J.T. Pickens. 1965. Conditions influencing the inhibition of analgesic drugs of the response to intraperitoneal injections of phenylbenzoquine in mice. Br. J. Pharmacol. 25: 81-87. 

16. Siegmund, E.A., R.A. Cadmus, and G. Lu. 1957. A method for evaluating both nonnarcotic and narcotic analgesics. Proc Soc. Exp. Biol. 95: 729-731.  

17. Hendershot, L.C., and J. Forsaith. 1959. Antagonism of the frequency of phenylbenzoquinone induced writhing in the mouse by weak analgesics and nonanalgesics. J. Pharmacol. Exp. Ther. 125: 237-240.  

18. Kinghorn, A.D., and F.J. Evns. 1975. A biological screen of selected species of the genus Euphorbia for skin irritant effects. Planta Med. 28: 325.

 19. Williamson, E.M., and F.J. Evans. 1981. Inhibition of erythema induced by proinflammatory esters of 12-deoxyphorbol. Acta Pharmacol. Toxicol. 481: 47-52.

 20. Williamson, E.M., J. Westwick, V.V. Kakkar, and F.J. Evans. 1981. Studies on the mechanism of action of 12-DOPP, a potent platelet aggregating phorbol ester. Biochem. Pharmacol. 30: 2691-2696.  

21. Collier, H.O.J., L.C. Dineen, C.A. Johnson, and C. Schneider. 1968. Abdominal constriction response and its suppression by analgesic drugs in the mouse. Br. J. Pharmacol. Chemother. 32: 295-310.   (22)

 23. Marks, F., G. Furstenberger, and E. Kownatzki, 1981. Prostaglandin E-mediated mitogenic stimulatin of mouse epidermis in vivo by divalent cation ionophore A23187 and by tumor promoter 12-O-tetradecanoyl phorbol-13-acetate. Cancer Res. 41: 696-702.  

24. Humes, J.L., S. Sadowski, M. Galavage, M. Goldenberg, E. Bubers, R.J. Bonney, and F.A. Kuehl, 1982. Evidence for two sources of arachidonic acid for oxidative metabolism by mouse peritoneal macrophages. J. Biol. Chem. 257: 1291-1594.

 25. Edwards, M.C., and F.J. Evans. 1987. Activity correlations in the phorbol ester series. Bot. J. Linn. Soc. 94: 231-246.  

26. Calson, R.P., L. O'Neill-David, J. Chary, and A.J. Lewis. 1985. Modulation of mouse ear edema by cyclooxygenase and lipoxygenase inhibitors and other pharmacological agents. Agents Actions 17: 197-204.  

27. Formukong, E.A., A.T. Evans, F.J. Evans. 1987. Inhibition of the cataleptic effect of delta-1-tetrahydrocannabinol by noncataleptic constituents of Cannabis sativa L. J. Pharm. Pharmacol. (in press)



The Cannabinergic System as a Target for Anti-inflammatory Therapies

Authors: Lu, Dai Kiran Vemuri, V. ; Duclos, Richard I. ; Jr. Makriyannis, Alexandros

Source: Current Topics in Medicinal Chemistry, Volume 6, Number 13, July 2006 , pp. 1401-1426(26)

Publisher: Bentham Science Publishers


Habitual cannabis use has been shown to affect the human immune system, and recent advances in endocannabinoid research provide a basis for understanding these immunomodulatory effects. Cell-based experiments or in vivo animal testing suggest that regulation of the endocannabinoid circuitry can impact almost every major function associated with the immune system.
These studies were assisted by the development of numerous novel molecules that exert their biological effects through the endocannabinoid system. Several of these compounds were tested for their effects on immune function, and the results suggest therapeutic opportunities for a variety of inflammatory diseases such as multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, atherosclerosis, allergic asthma, and autoimmune diabetes through modulation of the endocannabinoid system.

Research is showing using cannabis to taper off other hard drugs that you are physically addicted to is definitely a good idea and can be effective. To take your mind off your desire to use the drug and can even take the edge off the withdrawals.



Study ~ The Use of Indian Hemp in the Treatment of Chronic Chloral and Chronic Opium Poisoning.

ALCOHOLISM & Cannabis Studies Completed - Marijuana may buffer the brain against the damages of binge drinking, a new study suggests.

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